Finding and Keeping Farm Labor

Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson May 15, 2019 16:44


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The preferred choice for farmers of Agricultural Tracks

Portrait of two farmers with pitchforks in the settlement

The ongoing labor shortage in agriculture is critical, and it crosses the nation from coast to coast impacting all parts of the industry.  When there’s a shortage of labor, farmers can respond in several ways:

  • Scale back their operation
  • Raise wages and improve benefits to attract new workers
  • Attempt to secure more guest workers
  • Move to mechanization technologies
  • Retain current employees who have aged by adopting mechanical aids
  • Delay expansion
  • Switch to less labor-intensive crops
  • Exit the business

These actions seem to apply to large commercial farming operations, but what about those family farms who only need a few good men (or women)?

Here are some suggestions from a couple of professionals that might help you find those great employees:

  • Richard Hadden, a leadership consultant at Contented Cow Partners says your reputation as an employer is your best recruiting tool.  It is the reality of your workplace that will retain and engage people for the long term.  He also recommends using using obvious tools  such as ads in your local newspaper, TV and trade magazines.  You might even think about posting an ad on your church bulletin board.  He also mentions using the internet or social media to post openings.
  • Erika Osmundson, director of marketing and communications at suggests building your “bench” by creating relationships with local universities and possibly starting a simple internship program.  In addition, she states that your farm’s community presence is also a great recruiting tool.  And Osmundson feels good retention starts the moment your employee starts working, so have the proper training and tools ready that will allow them to be successful.  Fostering a good culture on your farm with big motivators like praise, recognition and meaningful work will also make your employees feel valued.

The Hollis family of Lanehaven Farms near Waterloo, IA understands the importance of retaining good employees.  Gordon Hollis’ three keys to a work culture that  promotes employee engagement are: 1. Caring, 2. Communicating, and 3. Growing.  His leadership team of owners and employees meet weekly and a major focus is placed on defining the farm’s culture.  They not only want to retain people, they want to engage them and so they conduct Stay Interviews (confidential one-on-one discussions between managers and employees) to find out what motivates them  and what would make them stay.  They also foster a sense of family by embracing the experience and knowledge of a multi-generational team.  Hollis feels there’s more respect and appreciation for various generations in an agricultural setting.  He also incorporates an element of fun by celebrating Ugly Sweater Day, Harvest Hump Day and Fun Fact Fridays.


Lanehaven Farms ultimately tries to reward and thank people which can ultimately go a long way towards keeping workers, and I think their practices could be followed in an operation of any size.  Start working on your employee toolkit today!


Terry Olson, Titan Machinery Outlet Team



Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson May 15, 2019 16:44
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